Shaping Our World

By Jodie MacLeod 2019-12-05 15:49:04

A Brief Look into the History of Storytelling

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, somebody, somewhere, started telling stories. It is still unknown who told that first story but, the tales were passed through the town, then through the city, and on through the whole country. Before long, the stories were told to the children, the grand-children and to the generations that followed, until finally the stories were no longer stories but were a way of life. The people had never known anything like it. They heard tales that they could relate to; stories of love and loss, safety and danger, right and wrong. It is even suggested that the first stories were a method of calming communities in times of uncertainty; helping people understand natural disasters they may have experienced such as fires, floods and drought. Their lives became the stories, and the storytelling became their life.

Even today, the simple act of telling stories to another holds a power that lives on and is still an intrinsic part of modern society. Where our ancestors relied on the humble art of oral storytelling to pass on knowledge from the elders, the advent of pen and paper means that we now have the ability, and luxury, to document and preserve our stories for future generations. And thanks to advancements in technology, nowadays we can express our stories in a whole host of mediums, including theatre, film, art, books, poems, songs, and even in Netflix dramas!

We have clearly always loved a good story, and even though we have advanced in our abilities to record our narratives, the nature of huddling around with our children to tell and hear stories hasn’t changed much; even if the camp fire has now become a bed. Stephen Fry recently said, “after a long day’s work or a long day chasing antelope, early humans would all come back and sit round the fire and tell stories of how the world was made and how spiders would spin webs and so on.” That innately human quality of sharing and listening to exciting tales of the day is lives within us all, and over time the stories that we tell and hear begin to shape our cultures, our beliefs and our perceptions of the world we inhabit. They become stories of humanity, and humanity is something worth remembering.

The beauty of storytelling is that it can be done anywhere and you don’t need any tools to do it. Just as our ancestors did before us, you can have a lot of fun with your children by making up bedtime stories instead of reading over and over from the same book. You can even mix up the storytelling by bringing in objects from around the room, or pre-writing some random words on pieces of paper that the children can creatively incorporate into their tale. It’s not just all fun and games though, as David Robson writes that, “brain scans have shown that reading or hearing stories activates various areas of the cortex that are known to be involved in social and emotional processing, and the more people read, the easier they find it to empathise with other people.” As well as introducing our children to empathy, storytelling also encourages vital listening skills as it isn’t just about telling the narratives, it’s equally as important to be a good listener. Kin Hubbard claims that, “The only way to entertain some folks is to listen to them”, and if our children can master this essential life skill at an early age they are more likely to go on to be good leaders, managers, and partners.

The benefits of storytelling for our children, ourselves, and our community are plentiful, as we build real-life heroes and heroins who are equipped with tools to be creative-thinkers, to empathise, to learn from each other, and to speak with confidence in public (even if their audience begins as a group of teddy bears).

Whether your family get their dramatic tales from from a book or the stage, a movie or a song, or a make-believe bedtime story, the most important thing is that we keep the art of storytelling alive. Because when we really think about it, our own lives are made up of a series of stories, filled with events and characters, plot twists and cliff-hangers. Each of the life chapters become stories worth telling and for every story told is a life remembered. The best part is, everyone has a story to tell, and we don’t need a pen and paper to tell it. I look forward to hearing yours…